Monthly Archives: February 2014

Ted Cruz Doesn’t Know Climate Change

In a recent CNN interview, Ted Cruz claimed that, “Climate change, as they have defined it, can never be disproved, because whether it gets hotter or whether it gets colder, whatever happens, they’ll say, well, it’s changing, so it proves our theory.”

There’s another theory that fits every situation: It’s called the theory of God. No matter what, he is always the answer.

But climate change is actually easier to see and prove than the existence of a supreme being. Like the human body, the earth maintains a relatively constant temperature, balancing the energy coming in from the sun and the energy radiated back into space. We can be thankful for the naturally-occurring greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and water, which have helped sustain our warmer, life-inducing conditions. If we had no atmosphere, our planet’s average surface temperature would be around 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

We really don’t need degrees in chemistry or environmental science to realize that anthropogenic activities can and do result in changes to our environment, even increases in temperatures. Let’s start with something we all know. Carbon monoxide cannot be seen, heard or felt by humans, yet we can all agree that it exists and that it is harmful. What happens when you close your garage door and start your car? Your car’s engine will produce carbon monoxide because it cannot get enough air to complete combustion, resulting in C + ½ O2 . The air in your garage becomes a toxic cocktail for you to breathe, and it’s a direct result of a human activity.

We know that what comes out of the tailpipe of one car can change the air within a space in a short amount of time. Now take millions of cars and put them into the garage of our atmosphere, our breathing space, and let them run nonstop.  Although carbon monoxide is still present in our exhaust, the bigger threat coming out of our tailpipes is CO2, which acts as a blanket, trapping heat inside our atmosphere. For each gallon of gas burned, it’s a measureable fact that twenty pounds of CO2 are emitted. Every year, those of us who drive are responsible for tons of CO2 emissions. Just as clouds act as a cover, reducing the solar heat that reaches us from above on cloudy days, greenhouse gases trap and redirect infrared radiation back to the planet, reducing the heat that is transferred out. But this is not the only problem. Carbon dioxide has a 100-year life, so the emissions we spew today will outlive us and will be a problem for our kids and grandkids.

If some folks still need convincing (not us, of course, but perhaps some of our coworkers or friends), they can try this experiment: Take two large glass jars and place a thermometer inside each jar. Cover the opening of the first jar with a glass plate. Leave the second glass jar uncovered. Expose the jars to sun and record the temperature every fifteen minutes for an hour.  The covered jar will be the warmest because the plate traps the sun’s energy and increases the temperature, just as the “CO2 blanket” does in our atmosphere. The same effect happens in our cars on sunny days.

We can see that climate change is not a hoax by the liberal media. We can and do have an effect on our environment. The fact that the scientific community has shifted its focus from “Global Warming” to “Climate Change” shows an ethical and honest approach.  As we add new information and understandings, we should refine our understanding of the world around us. That’s what honest people are supposed to do.

According to the 2013 Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, 70% of Texans believe that global warming is happening. More than half of us believe that the U.S. should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, and 69% of us believe that individuals should be doing more to address the issue.

Mr. Cruz, along with many of our state’s politicians, do not represent the majority of us but rather a relatively small and well-organized vocal minority—The Tea Party.  Our representatives realize that, in Texas, these unhappy folks will throw money, effort and votes their way. This is too bad for all of us, especially in a state that emits more greenhouse gases than any other in our nation. We, of all states, should be addressing the issues.

But we cannot make a difference if our most influential leaders claim that climate change is just a hoax.  What will it take to get our politicians and their posse on board? Do we want to leave our children with problems we created, or do we want to acknowledge the issues and work together?

 

 

CookieCott 2014

You know the saying, it just takes a few bad apples. Well, here’s a fine example that proves the old adage.

A handful of Christian conservatives from Waco, Texas, are bullying the Girl Scouts because of a tweet this past December referencing Wendy Davis and Kathleen Sebelius. This deplorable effort is being led by retired Baylor University professor John Pisciotta. According to the CookieCott site, and the flier you can download and give to the parents of Girl Scouts explaining why you can’t buy their cookies, Davis stands for abortion, and the mere mention of her name as a candidate for Woman of the Year (in a tweet), threw these extremists into a frenzy. Boooooo!

For godssake. How very Christian. Don’t they see the irony in their behavior? Would Jesus also bully young girls who have no flipping clue what’s going on, who are just trying to earn money for camping trips?

The problem is that it’s always the same unhappy people who get all the attention, and a very small minority who ruin things for everyone else.  The radicals on the right, which includes Fox News, have come to represent Christianity, and they are giving it a very, very bad image. In demanding that everyone believe the same sh*t as they do, they have become extremists.  These same folks whine that government limits their rights, and yet, they try to limit the rights and liberties of everyone else. Now they’re pushing their agenda on innocent girls. Shame. On. Them.

Do you know what we call extremist acts that are coercive, violent or oppressive as a way to achieve a political goal?

We call them acts of terrorism. Not bullying. These folks are terrorists.

WWJD?

He’d buy more cookies. Prior to today, I bought one box of Girl Scout cookies from each of the Scouts I know in my neighborhood. I figured I’d done my duty. But after reading this article, and doing a little research, I’m going to go buy more boxes, even from the girls set up outside the grocery stores, restaurants and Lowe’s. I’ll donate the boxes, give them to the kids I know. But I am going to buy more.

Here’s where you can locate cookies in your area.

If you’d like to send Mr. Pisciotta a tweet, asking him to stop garnering attention for his cause by bullying innocent children, you can find him here (@WacoProlifer).

The Right Speech

I took a mindfulness workshop at a friend’s yoga studio this weekend. The class was taught by an ordained monastic in the Jonang lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. I’m not much of a follower of anything, but Buddhism offers something for everyone. I learned that one of the limbs of smrti, Sanskrit for mindfulness, is that, “One is mindful to abandon wrong speech and to enter and remain in right speech.”

So what is right speech? I’d think it is language that attempts to be as true and factual as possible, though, of course, there’s always a lowercase “t” on truth and facts can be subjective sometimes.  But according to the monk, right speech is not necessarily truthful. It is helpful rather than factual. It is kind. It is timely.

Here’s an example:

An angry, armed man knocks on your door and asks for your brother.  You know that he is upstairs asleep. Would you tell the truth and send the shooter upstairs or would you say that your brother left for the airport an hour ago?

Of course, you’d tell him the latter. That would be the “right speech” for the time, although it is not factual.

But circumstances are not always this clear. Do you tell your spouse that you cheated on her once—only once, a long time ago, while you were still engaged? Doing so would relieve your conscience but burden your wife. Do you rat out a friend who has lied on his resume, knowing that if he loses his job, he won’t be able to support his family? It’s not fair that he takes credit for things he didn’t do, and yet his three kids would pay the price.

Oftentimes, we are faced with these dilemmas. Trishia Jacobs shared an interesting conversation posted by Richard Dawkins a few weeks ago. ”What do you do if a dying family member wants to know that you believe in Jesus and god before their impending death? If you tell the truth they may hate you, but yet you don’t want to lie to them. What do you see as the solution?”

One woman responded, “Always be true to yourself. Why should my beliefs have any bearing on whether or not they get into a make believe utopia? They should be content in THEIR own beliefs.” There were many others like her who agreed.

Seems heartless, thinking only of yourself when someone you supposedly love is in pain physically and emotionally. You and I both know why a dying Christian would ask this:  He wants hope that he’ll be reunited with you and those he loves. Is that such a bad thing? What is the right speech, and what will it cost? If we are being helpful, kind, timely and merciful, we will ease the emotional burden of the person who is dying. There is no cost to us, no price we’ll pay by simply saying “I believe in Jesus” or by giving a squeeze on the arm for assent. Our rights will not have been affected, nor will our lack of belief. The conversation will soon be buried, gone forever. And the truth could be that you believe in what Jesus taught about love and kindness, but not in his divinity.

It is important to teach our children right speech, too, because it takes the focus off them and encourages empathy and compassion. Wisdom comes from knowing when to make an issue of religion and when to make peace.

 

A Sunday Sermon

There is a reason why Rudyard Kipling said words are the most powerful drug used by mankind. Here’s why:

I am not who I seem to be, yet I am exactly as I appear. I am the wind, invisible and changeable.  I am a cautious turtle, retreating into the safety of my shell. I am a hawk, hunting prey.  I am a tiny ant crawling dazed across the floor. I’m a furry caterpillar and a furious beehive.  I’m a steamroller, flattening anything in my way. I am the warm sun, strong against your back and the steel knife that neatly eviscerates the carcass of an animal. 

I am the lips of a friend who comes to ease your loneliness and the caustic tongue of an enemy. I am the giggles of a two-year old and the angry thunder that makes you pull the covers tight around your neck.  I am slow as a snail and swift as a cheetah. I am the quiet wings of a butterfly and the excited shrieks of a chimp. I’m the voice in your head that cheers you on and the doubt that gives you pause. I follow the law and break the rules. I use words to say exactly what I mean to say and sometimes more. I am everything to someone, but nothing to most. Words describe me, limit me and break me down. But they can also seduce me and build me up.

I’m the freshmen who nearly failed college English. I am proof that tests only measure what you do not know, not what you are capable of. Some days I am weak, some days I am strong, some days I am both. I am evidence that all things are possible with grit and perseverance.

I am this and more–and you are, too.  As Carl Sagan once said we are all made from the same star stuff. We are all part of one river, one universe. We were made from the same ingredients, under the same temperatures and conditions. We are more similar than not, no matter how much we believe that we are different or unique. I am your sibling and your parent and your child and your spouse. I am Debbie Mitchell, but I am also you, your coworker, your countryman, your friend and your teammate.

I use words to build stories and to create arguments. I use them to ask questions that have many answers and sometimes no answers at all. My words are not just mine. They are yours and ours, too. We share the same language, the same thoughts, the same boundaries and the same potentials. Your words may sound differently, you may speak in French or Russian or Spanish or Farsi, but we say the same things. We feel and think and believe alike.  

For me, words are medicine; they bring structure and order to the chaos in my mind and in the world around me; there might be an app for that, but there’s a word for that, too. Did you know that the little stars you see when you rub your eyes are called phosphenes? We are not only continuously inventing new words, but also redefining and recycling old words. Language is alive, just like we are, and it will outlive you and me.

There is a reason why words are the most powerful drug used by mankind. They are certainly powerful for me: they entertain and explain; they define and they limit; they forgive and they change; they hide us behind lies and they expose our lies. They can make us cry, make us happy, even divide us, but their greatest benefit is that they can bridge and unite us, too. Words can be salves, medications, painkillers and remedies. They can even make us smile.

Our words can be hurtful or helpful. Today, let’s use them to heal and unite us. Let’s use them to make peace and spread love, no matter what we believe about God or the afterlife.

Debate

My kids watched Bill Nye the Science Guy when they were little. As many of you know, he’ll be debating creationist Ken Ham tonight. I’m going to make sure my 15-yo watches, so he can decide for himself what he thinks about the argument. Here’s the link if you and your kiddos would like to see it live tonight at 7:00 p.m. ET.

I’m hoping that Texas’ candidates for Lt. Governor will be watching the debate, too, since they all want creationism in the schools (or so they say). I’m a little suspicious that perhaps they’re just pandering to the Tea Party. I mean, what are the odds that four….errrr…intelligently designed men would be in favor of teaching myth in science class?

One last thing, while I have your attention. I was truly saddened for this mother of two boys who lost them both to gun violence within a week.  I know that Oakland is known as America’s worst city for crime, but there must be something we can do to help that city and our fellow citizens.  I don’t care if it’s the churches that reach out and mentor these kids involved in gangs. They obviously need attention and intervention when they’re young.  If anyone has and ideas, I’d love to hear them.